Racial Politics and the Duke University Rape Case

In the case of a black woman who claimed she was raped at a party near the Duke University campus, Durham district attorney Mike Nifong obtained indictments of three white Duke University lacrosse players. Nifong’s decision to proceed in the case, despite the fact that no conclusive DNA evidence was found to support the allegations against the defendants, may have paid political dividends. Nifong won the Democratic primary for district attorney due to the support he received from black voters.

A slim majority of white voters preferred Nifong’s opponent Freda Black, a white woman. But Nifong outpolled Freda Black among African-American voters by a two-to-one margin. His solid support among black voters resulted in Nifong’s winning the primary by 883 votes.


Duke Incident Makes the Case for Racial Diversity at the Top

The charges against members of the Duke University lacrosse team present a classic example of the importance of having people at all levels of the administration who are sensitive to racial issues.

A report by William Bowen, president of the Andrew Mellon Foundation and former president of Princeton University, and Julius Chambers, former chancellor of North Carolina Central University and past director of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, found that administrators at all levels of the university failed to grasp the seriousness of the situation and the racial aspects of the case.

The fact that the woman filing the rape charges was black and the men she accused were white was not made known to the Duke administration until nine days after the alleged assault took place. Duke president Richard Broadhead learned of the incident from reading the Duke student newspaper.

The Bowen/Chambers report concluded that the Duke administration relied too heavily on Durham police department reports that the woman was not a credible witness and that the case would “blow over.” The report said that the Duke administration was “handicapped by its own limited diversity” in understanding the racial implications of the case.


“Under the pretense of fair competition, tens of thousands of high school students and their families employ the scholastic equivalent of steroids — test prep courses.”

Samuel G. Freedman, in The New York Times, April 26, 2006


States With Large Racial Disparities in High School Completion Rates

Nationwide in 2000, 85.5 percent of white adults over the age of 25 had completed high school. This was 13.3 percentage points higher than the rate for blacks, which stood at 72.3 percent.

But the nationwide racial gap in high school completions varies to a large degree among the 50 states. In 47 of the 50 states of the union, whites are more likely to have a high school diploma than blacks. But in North Dakota, Montana, and West Virginia, blacks are more likely to have completed high school than whites.

In the 47 states in which whites are more likely to have completed high school than blacks, the differences at times are quite large. By far the largest racial shortfall is in the District of Columbia. There, nearly 97.5 percent of all white adults have a high school diploma compared to 70.4 percent of black adults.

Among the states, the largest differences are generally in the South. The black-white gap in high school completions is 18.5 percentage points in both Florida and Mississippi. In Louisiana and South Carolina, the racial gap is significantly higher than the national average. But in Alabama, Tennessee, North Carolina, and Georgia, the racial gap in high school completions is below the national average.

The largest racial gap in high school completions in the northern states occurs in Wisconsin. New York and Illinois are also significantly higher than the average. The racial gap is very small in Hawaii, Kentucky, Maine, and South Dakota.


Benefits of New Federal Financial Aid Programs for Low-Income Students Will Fall Disproportionately to Whites

Good news! The federal government has announced two new financial aid programs for low-income college students. Bad news: It is likely that very few black students will meet the criteria for the new program.

The Academic Competitiveness (AC) grants will be awarded to first- and second-year college students from low-income families who have successfully completed a rigorous secondary school program. But in order to qualify for an AC grant, a high school student must take three years of mathematics, four years of English, two years of a foreign language, and three years of laboratory science. In a number of predominantly black high schools, three laboratory sciences are not offered to students.

Low-income students can also become eligible for AC grants if they take and pass two Advanced Placement tests. But blacks are far less likely than whites to take Advanced Placement courses. Some mostly black high schools do not even offer Advanced Placement curricula. When blacks do take AP tests, they are far less likely to receive a passing grade than whites.

The National Science and Mathematics Access to Retain Talent (SMART) grants are available to third- and fourth-year college students from low-income families who major in mathematics, science, technology, engineering, or critical foreign languages. Grant awards in this program can go as high as $4,000, effectively doubling the maximum Pell Grant award. But the percentage of black college students majoring in all of these disciplines is lower, and sometimes significantly lower, than the black percentage of overall college enrollments.

Thus, it appears that the SMART grants will disproportionately go to low-income white and Asian students.


Six African Americans Win Rangel Fellowships for Graduate Study in International Affairs

Congressman Charles Rangel of New York has served in Congress for nearly 36 years. A graduate of New York University and St. John’s University School of Law, Rangel earned the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star during service in Korea. In honor of his longstanding public service, Congress and the U.S. Department of State have authorized the Charles B. Rangel International Affairs Fellowship Program.

Each year the Rangel program chooses 10 fellows in a highly competitive nationwide selection process. Rangel fellows receive up to $28,000 annually in assistance for tuition, room, board and other related expenses for a two-year master’s degree in international affairs or a related topic. Following their successful completion of the fellows program, scholarship recipients are eligible for positions in the foreign service.

This year six of the 10 recipients of Rangel fellowships are African Americans:

  • La June Barnes of Bay Shore, New York, attended New York University and majored in political science and Spanish literature.
  • Christopher Hartfield of Atlanta, Georgia, earned his bachelor’s degree in international relations and psychology at Stanford University.
  • Brandon Jackson of Jacksonville, Florida, is currently completing a graduate certificate in Chinese and American studies at the Hopkins Nanjing Center in China. He is a 2003 graduate of Cornell University.
  • Marcus R. Jackson of Montgomery, Alabama, recently earned his bachelor’s degree in political science and public management at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University in Tallahassee, Florida.
  • Teresa Williamson of Sacramento, California, is a graduate of Dillard University in New Orleans where she majored in Japanese studies.
  • Hanan Yehia, who grew up in Chicago, Illinois, and Cincinnati, Ohio, graduates from Howard University this spring with a bachelor’s degree in political science.


New Financial Aid Program in Florida Likely Will Benefit African-American College Students

In the fall of 2005 there were 626 fewer black first-year students who enrolled at state-operated universities in Florida than was the case the previous year. While race is not permitted to be used as a factor in the admissions process at public universities in Florida, most experts agree that the primary reason for the decline in black enrollments is due to the rising costs of tuition and other fees.

In an attempt to make college affordable for more low-income students, the state Senate has approved the First Generation Matching Grant Program. The program, which has the support of Governor Jeb Bush, is available to students of all races who are the first in the family to go to college. Students who qualify for the program must be eligible for a federal Pell Grant award. Because blacks in Florida make up a large percentage of the group of low-income, first-generation college students, it is expected that the grant program, which is race neutral on its face, will disproportionately benefit African Americans.




Zina L. Evans was named assistant provost and director of admissions at the University of Florida in Gainesville. She was the associate director of admissions at the University of Maryland at College Park. Evans is a graduate of the University of California at Irvine. She holds a master’s degree from the University of Rhode Island and a doctorate in college student personnel administration from the University of Maryland.

Wright L. Lassiter Jr. was named interim chancellor of the Dallas County Community College District in Texas. Dr. Lassiter has been president of El Centro College since 1986. Now 72 years old, Dr. Lassiter is not a candidate for permanent appointment as chancellor.

John L. Jackson Jr. was named associate professor of communication at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania. He will also hold a joint appointment as an associate professor of anthropology at Penn. Jackson was an assistant professor of cultural anthropology at Duke University.

Stanford Psychologist Finds That in Murder Cases Dark-Skinned Blacks Are More Likely to Receive the Death Penalty Than Light-Skinned African Americans

A Stanford psychologist has found that in murder cases there is a direct correlation between the darkness of defendants’ skin and whether or not they receive the death penalty.

Jennifer Eberhardt, an associate professor of psychology at Stanford University, is the lead author in a study which found that African Americans convicted of murdering whites were more likely to receive the death penalty than light-skinned blacks who had killed whites. When the murder victim was black, there was no discernible difference in death penalty rates for dark- and light-skinned blacks.

The study found that more than 54 percent of African-American defendants with dark skin, broad noses, and thick lips were sentenced to death when convicted of killing a white person. Only 24 percent of light-skinned blacks were sentenced to death.

Professor Eberhardt earned her Ph.D. in psychology at Harvard University. Her study is published in the May issue of Psychological Science. The article can be purchased online by clicking here.


Georgia Federal Court Says Separate But Equal Schools Are Once Again OK

A federal district court in Georgia has ruled that a condition of racial segregation in the local schools caused by grouping students according to their perceived ability is not unconstitutional. The school district tracks students according to their ability as measured on standardized tests. In some cases this tracking begins in kindergarten. The result has been that black students make up the majority in the groups with lower perceived ability whereas the vast majority of white children are placed in the higher ability groups.

In Shernika Holton, Thomas County Branch of the NAACP et al. v. City of Thomasville School District, the court ruled that race was not the deciding factor as to where students were placed. It also said the current racial imbalance was not impacted to any degree by the district’s history of de jure racial segregation prior to the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision.


Law Schools Are Under Pressure From Rankings and That’s Very Bad for Blacks

Law schools are reluctant to accept applicants with low scores on the Law School Admission Test because these scores bring down a school’s median LSAT score, which is a key component used by U.S. News & World Report in ranking U.S. law schools.

There is now solid evidence that in fact law schools’ efforts to raise their median LSAT scores in an effort to boost their rankings are having a profound negative impact on black enrollments. A new study by John Nussbaumer, professor and dean at the Thomas M. Cooley Law School at Oakland University, and published in the St. John’s Law Review, provides evidence of a correlation between an increase in median LSAT scores at law schools and a decrease in African-American enrollments.

Professor Nussbaumer found that in the 2002 to 2004 period, 82 percent of the 84 law schools he studied nationwide raised their median LSAT scores by admitting students with higher scores. Of the law schools that raised their median LSAT levels, 62 percent saw a decline in African-American enrollments during the period. At the 84 law schools in the Nussbaumer study, overall enrollments increased nearly 6 percent from 2002 to 2004. But black enrollments at these schools decreased by almost 4 percent. At 18 of the law schools that raised their LSAT scores, the decline in black enrollments was greater than 15 percent.

Professor Nussbaumer concludes that while the nation’s law schools “have no racially discriminatory purpose, they remain responsible for creating a de facto and racially discriminatory quota system that effectively restricts African-American access to the legal profession.”


Affirmative Action Ban Continues to Inflict Severe Damage on Black Higher Educational Opportunities in California

Despite the Supreme Court’s Grutter ruling in 2003, public universities in California are still forbidden under state law from considering race in their admissions decisions. This law, enacted by public referendum in 1996, continues to have a devastating effect on black higher education opportunities in California. Blacks, who are about 8 percent of all high school graduates in California, made up only 3.4 percent of the students admitted to the University of California’s 10 campuses this year.

As expected, the impact of Proposition 209 is felt particularly severely at the most selective of the University of California campuses. There were 288 black students admitted to Berkeley this year, an increase of 10 percent from a year ago. But blacks made up only 3 percent of all admitted students at Berkeley. This is less than one half the level that prevailed prior to the enactment of the ban on race-sensitive admissions.

Only 2 percent of all students admitted to the University of California at Los Angeles for this fall’s entering class are black. There were 210 black students admitted, down from 247 a year ago. In 1997, before the ban on race-sensitive admissions went into effect, there were 485 black students admitted to UCLA.

There were 335 black students admitted to the University of California at San Diego this year. This is up slightly from a year ago but down nearly 7 percent from 1997, before the ban on affirmative action went into effect. But blacks are only 1.9 percent of all admitted students to the San Diego campus this year.


40.3 years  The median age of white Americans in 2005.

30.0 years   The median age of African Americans in 2005.

27.2 years   The median age of Hispanic Americans in 2005.

source: U.S. Bureau of the Census


Professor at Case Western Reserve University Clears Up the Mystery Surrounding the Death of Booker T. Washington

In 1915 Booker T. Washington, the founder of Tuskegee University, checked himself into St. Luke’s Hospital in New York City suffering from exhaustion. Washington, who was 59 years old, had just given a speech at Yale University.

The examining physician at St. Luke’s Hospital concluded that Washington was suffering from “racial characteristics,” which in those days was widely regarded as meaning that he had syphilis. Washington died two weeks later and his personal physician vehemently denied that Washington had syphilis. The Washington obituary in The New York Times said that he had died from “hardening of the arteries following a nervous breakdown.”

Jackson Wright, an African-American professor at the Case Western University School of Medicine in Cleveland, recently examined Washington’s medical records at the request of his descendants. The records showed that Washington’s blood pressure was 225 over 145, nearly double the level considered healthy. The records also revealed that Washington suffered vision problems consistent with severe hypertension. Family medical records indicated that hypertension was common in the Washington family and had led to the death of his mother and a sister.

Dr. Wright concluded that hypertension led to kidney failure which resulted in Washington’s death.


Harvard Honors the Four of ’48

In the 1,000-member freshman class at Harvard University in 1948 there were four black students. This was an all-time record. Bowing to the etiquette of Jim Crow, the four black students were paired as roommates.

All four of the black students graduated in 1952. These four men were honored recently at a reception sponsored by the Harvard Foundation for Intercultural and Race Relations.

  • James M. Harkless was the first black president of the Harvard Glee Club. He went on to earn a degree from Harvard Law School and spent his career as a labor arbitrator.
  • Wallace C. Carrington also graduated from Harvard Law School and was one of the seven original overseas directors of the Peace Corps. He later served as U.S. ambassador to Nigeria.
  • Herbert S. Hughes studied mathematics at Harvard and was one of a group of people who invented the automated teller machine.
  • William M. Simmons was the first black president of the Harvard Crimson, the student newspaper. He later served in the U.S. Air Force and became a corporate lawyer.


University of Colorado Decides Not to Lower Standards in Order to Permit More Black Students to Meet the School’s Academic Requirements

This past January, Hank Brown, president of the University of Colorado system, created a blue ribbon commission that was assigned the task of making recommendations for increasing racial diversity at the state’s flagship campus at Boulder. The Boulder campus has been plagued with a number of serious racial incidents in the past two years.

The commission made several recommendations. One of the most controversial was a proposal to lower admissions standards so that more black and other minority students would be eligible to enroll. But the university has decided that it would not lower its academic standards.

Instead, the University of Colorado plans to increase funding for outreach programs at elementary and secondary schools with a high percentage of black students in an effort to “improve the educational pipeline.” In addition, the university will increase funding for its diversity scholarship programs by 50 percent.

Mandatory racial diversity training will be instituted for all students, faculty, and administrators on the Boulder campus.


Two Flagship State Universities Look to Increase Black Enrollments

The University of Arkansas has launched a $300,000 advertising campaign to recruit black students. The campaign will involve print, radio, and television advertisements. This past academic year there were 982 black students at the Fayetteville campus, about 5.5 percent of the nearly 18,000-member student body. Blacks make up about 16 percent of the population in Arkansas.

Indiana University has embarked on a plan to double the number of black students on campus over the next seven years. Blacks now make up about 4 percent of the 37,000 students at the Bloomington campus. Blacks are about 8 percent of the population in Indiana. Money will be budgeted to increase black student recruitment efforts and to expand the admissions office staff.


African-American Enrollments in Free Fall at the University of South Carolina

In 1999 blacks were a whopping 19 percent of all undergraduate enrollments at the University of South Carolina. This was the highest percentage of blacks in the student body of any of the nation’s flagship state universities. Since that time the number of students enrolled at the university has grown by about 3,000. But black enrollments are down by nearly 500 students. Today blacks make up just 14 percent of the undergraduate students at the University of South Carolina.

According to university officials, there are several factors that have contributed to the decline in black enrollments.

  • Higher tuition costs have made it more difficult for low-income blacks to afford a college education.
  • South Carolina’s public schools are having a difficult time producing graduates who are prepared for college. About 55 percent of blacks who graduate from South Carolina high schools need some remedial study in college.
  • High-ranking colleges and universities from around the nation are increasing their recruitment efforts at predominantly black high schools in the state.



Farrah Gray, the author of Reallionaire: Nine Steps to Becoming Rich From the Inside Out, was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Allen University. At age 21, it is believed that Gray is the youngest African American ever to be awarded an honorary degree from a black college or university.

Gray began his career at age 6 selling painted rocks and body lotion door to door. By age 12 he was commanding $5,000 fees for inspirational speaking engagements. At age 13 he founded his own specialty food company, which he sold two years later for more than $1 million.




Copyright © 2006. The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education. All rights reserved.